Carmel resident helps produce virtual concert programs


Carmel resident Lee Clifford is helping the American Pianists Association’s classical finalists share their music online.

Clifford, director of marketing for American Pianists Association for the past four years, has begun a new online series:  American Pianists Awards’ “Live from the Piano Bench.” With live events postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, many arts organizations are turning to online programming.

The series has the 2021 finalists paired with past competition winners for conversation and short performances from their home. The Facebook Live performances started April 26 with Dominic Cheli paired with the 2007 awards winner, Dan Tepfer. 

Tepfer will give a bonus concert at 3:30 p.m. May 3. That will be a full concert because Tepfer was scheduled to give a performance that same date and time at Trinity Episcopal Church in Indianapolis. Instead, he is doing it from his home in Brooklyn.

The remaining 3:30 p.m. performances are May 10: Kenny Broberg with 1981 winner Jonathan Shames; May 17: Mackenzie Melemed with 2006 winner Spencer Myer; May 24: Michael Davidman with 1981 winner Sara Davis Buechner and May 31: Sam Hong with 1985 winner Frederic Chiu.

On March 11, American Pianists Association, which is located on Butler University’s campus, announced the five 2021 finalists for the classical competition whom will be competing over the following months leading up to the finals in April 2021.

“Some people are taping things and then making them look like a Zoom show,” Clifford said. “There is a interesting spontaneity to doing things live, so that’s what’s we’re doing. We have two people on screen, sometimes both will play, mostly just one will play.”

Clifford said the performances are designed to get to know the performer, with conversation alternating with playing. The concerts with finalists are approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

“We’re partnering with other organizations to share our feed,” he said. 

In April, Clifford helped produce a “Jazz at Home” series featuring conversation and performances by the American Pianists Awards winners in jazz. The concert was originally scheduled to be at Dizzy’s Club in New York.

“Each night was supposed to feature two former winners, so we know they spread out all over the country, so how do we get them together and still do a night of music?” Clifford said. “We used Zoom, and then I had some other tools I had to package with it and make it into a concert.” 

Clifford said it drew viewers from all over the world, including 50,000 viewers for the Saturday night concert.

“We are looking for ways we can try to monetize concerts in the future,” he said. “For right now, it’s just trying to share music and have something positive to do.”

In his spare time, Clifford is helping other artists and organizations, both locally and nationally, livestream and make plans to share their music.

American Pianists Association holds its competition every year and alternates between jazz and classical participants.

Viewers can see American Pianists Association streams at For more, visit